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Old 12-05-2019, 11:14 PM   #1
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Adjusting water heater for high altitude

I am a new owner of an A-frame. The water heater manual says it works great up to 4500' elevation, then must be "derated" 4% for every 1000' elevation. So if I go camping at 9-10,000' in the Rockies, I need "derating" by up to 40% This is to be done by a pro, sez the manual. What do you experienced folk do about adjusting appliances for altitude?
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Old 12-08-2019, 09:47 AM   #2
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I have read that also. From 2004-2018, we had Rv's with Atwood water heaters. We visited many places over 4500' in elevation and some over 9000'. Never had a problem. Never had soot on the exhaust vent or heater external door. Our current RV has a Suburban water heater. We stayed in Eagle Nest, NM (which I believe is about 8500') for 9 days with no issues. I do have the water heater cleaned every year.
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Old 12-08-2019, 10:09 AM   #3
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Welcome to the forum its a great place to get your questions answered. Most propane appliances do not work at 100% when operating at altitude with a sea level orifice installed it is very common in house furnaces to replace the orifices when operating at high altitudes. The manuals say have a pro do most things that need changing however changing an orifice is not beyond a competent rig owner. Many units work fine as has been noted at altitude you may want to try it first than decide.
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Old 12-08-2019, 12:10 PM   #4
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Adjusting water heater for high altitude

Just means it won't work as efficiently (quickly) at higher altitudes, not that you need to mess with it. If you always camp in the mountains then consider an adjustment.
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Old 12-08-2019, 01:29 PM   #5
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I have regularly camped at 6,000 ft, camped for 5 months at over 8,000ft in the Rockies, and for 2 weeks at 10,000 ft at Leadville, and I have never had a problem with my water heater, furnace or fridge. They all worked perfectly.
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Old 12-08-2019, 01:47 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by johntaylor View Post
I have regularly camped at 6,000 ft, camped for 5 months at over 8,000ft in the Rockies, and for 2 weeks at 10,000 ft at Leadville, and I have never had a problem with my water heater, furnace or fridge. They all worked perfectly.
Same here. If I were to set up full time at a high altitude I'd then go to the trouble of "re-jetting".

Camped for a week at the KOA in Central City, CO which is 8500 feet. Never gave it a thought for furnace or water heater (I use both gas and electric for quick recovery). Didn't have any issues with stove/oven either.
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Old 12-08-2019, 03:23 PM   #7
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We camp at 9000 all the time. Sometimes I just leave the wh door open when it is having troubl staying lit.
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Old 12-08-2019, 05:14 PM   #8
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Ive had 3 different Forest River trailers. Water heaters in all 3 with stock jets were unreliable at best at 9000 or more.
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Old 12-08-2019, 07:39 PM   #9
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X2 what Sea Dog said.
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Old 12-08-2019, 07:45 PM   #10
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Never had problems with water heater or furnace. Generator and frig are a different case though. My gas pressure is about 13inwc as set by my dealer. Stove has a higher flame at that pressure. I live at 4500' and camp above 8000'.
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Old 12-08-2019, 08:17 PM   #11
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Had the issues as the OP two years ago while camping at Yellowstone. Furnace worked just enough to keep us sort of comfortable at night with temps in the 30's. Gave up on trying to heat water.
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Old 12-08-2019, 08:19 PM   #12
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Derating may also relate to performance...as in at altitude the appliance will produce less hot water per unit of time because combustion has less oxygen to work with.

My PUP had a burner tube with no slide shutter...fixed ratio of air to gas. Unusual but not unheard of. As luck would have it, there was too much air in many circumstances, and you could hear the flame jumping off the burner, roaring, and often going out...especially if it was at all windy.

I kluged an adjustable shutter using foil tape. I guesstimated a setting, closing the air gap about 1/4" as a field repair, and it worked great. The roar and flame jumping off the burner stopped.

From there, I had great hot water performance. I have no idea how many gallons per hour, but more than enough.

I purchased my rig in Denver, so the burner orifices may have been ordered for altitude, but I have no way of knowing.

As a side-bar to the discussion, I have two propane fire pits. Both are rated to 54,000 BTU, about all that a propane tank can deliver before shutting down. They perform very well at 8500 feet, and both pull propane from the tank so quickly that the tanks build up a coating of ice on the outside of the tank in what is typically very low humidity. Again, I have no idea if the orifices on these were installed for high altitude operation, but the performance does not suffer.
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Old 12-08-2019, 08:38 PM   #13
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Don't you just loosen that bolt with 1/4" head and close the air gap on the burner until it's quiet?
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Old 12-09-2019, 09:46 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HONDAMAN174 View Post
We camp at 9000 all the time. Sometimes I just leave the wh door open when it is having troubl staying lit.
Did the same thing with water heater and fridge when spending a week in Rocky Mountain NP.
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Old 12-10-2019, 05:37 PM   #15
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